Friday, July 10, 2015

Supporting Your Beloved Spiritual Communities

As clergy people to our own spiritual communities (me to the Triangle Area Pagan Alliance, Gaia’s Circle, and the Universalist Fellowship of the Sacred Path, Bryan to the Holy Nicholean Catholic Church) Bryan and I are constantly working on our being the best we can be for the members and parishioners of our groups.  This includes (but is not limited to) studying and training, maintaining our own devotional and ritual schedules, being available for mentoring and pastoral counseling, maintaining websites and social media openness, having quality supplies and tools, and writing quality rituals, workshops, meditations, articles, etc.  The thing is, all of the above takes time, and it takes money.  It takes money to run websites and to buy tools.  It takes time to reply to emails and to write articles (and books!)  And if we’re taking time to maintain our spiritual communities that means less time for secular paying work, and, consequently, less time for our families.

I was a bit worried that this show would be just me and Bryan ranting for an hour, but Bryan did a great job of keeping calm and professional (okay, maybe I struggled with that a bit…).  But it was a good show, and it was an important show.  Those who run and facilitate alternative spiritual communities need help and support, and those who enjoy and partake of the benefits of these communities absolutely must support them in any way they can. 

You should check out the radio show for a good discussion on the realities of serving as a clergy person to an alternative religious community.  Bryan and I had a good conversation, and I’d love to hear more from you.  Are you a community leader?  Or are you a member of the community?  What are your thoughts?

And in the meantime, here are some thoughts on what you can do to help.  Because if you don’t help your beloved religious and spiritual institutions, they’ll die. 

  • RSVP to events.  This encourages others to go to events because they see a full list of attendees and that’s exciting.
  • Absolutely do NOT RSVP if you have no intention of attending an event.  This is rude and cruel to the people who are expecting you to attend.  We spend a lot of time and money on our events, and we do it all for you. If you RSVP and you don’t show up, it’s time and money wasted.  It’s incredibly rude, disappointing, and upsetting each and every time this happens.
  • If you are able, donate money.  We realize that money is tight for everyone, but we make it a priority to pay for our events out of pocket.  If we can make it a priority, so can you.  (Isaac Bonewitz has a great essay about the need for the Pagan community to shift their priorities in regards to how they spend their money.  If you have money for a super large latte with extra whip or a red box movie or extra toppings on your pizza, then you have money to throw into the donation box, even if it’s just a dollar or two.)
  • If you are able, donate time.  This includes ritual set-up, ritual facilitation, ritual attendance, and ritual clean-up.  Help write rituals.  Attend planning meetings.  If your community has a space, volunteer to help clean it or maintain it.  Volunteer to go shopping for supplies.  Help out with the website, answering emails, or participating on social media.  Burnout in Pagan groups is HUGE.  If you want to keep on having awesome things, show your appreciation.  Because if you don’t step up, then the people who keep on doing nice things for you are going to go crazy and then you won’t have any more nice things.  It breaks my heart when I think about all of the amazing groups and events that have died because of facilitator burnout.  People get sad and say “oh, that’s such a shame!” and I say “if it’s such a shame, what did you do to keep it going?”
  • Put up fliers.  Most places have a bulletin board these days.  I carry around little quarter sheets in my wallet and I put them up whenever I see a bulletin board.  It takes pretty much zero time if you’re already out and about, and you’d be surprised who reads those things and who will be excited to hear about local Pagan events and groups.
  • Donate items.  THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU to all who have donated items to me over the years.  Tables, shelves, candles, bottles, lamps, wine, food, paper plates, oils, jars, lighters, incense, books, etc.  YOU GUYS ROCK.  These are things that groups do use and will appreciate it.  If you donate your new or gently used Pagan items and tools, or household items, that means we don’t have to buy them, which means we can spend our money on things like paying bills.  (Not even sarcasm on this one.  Here’s a confession – I spent a ton of money to facilitate a free workshop in June.  Consequently, when it came to paying July bills… well…)
  • Gift cards are cool, too.  As a gift for officiating a wedding, a friend gave me a hugely generous Etsy gift card.  (So generous I cried.  True story.)  While I bought myself a few presents with this (as well as some birthday and holiday gifts for others, too) I used a lot of it to buy tools, materials, and supplies for my Pagan groups.  A cool thing about Etsy and other gift cards is that if you buy gift cards for local new age and metaphysical shops, you are helping local shops and artisans make some extra money and you are helping your groups get supplies.

This is a pretty hefty list, but each of these points is very important.  I’m blessed with lovely groups and friendly attendees, but if the Pagan community as a whole did these few little things then the community would be fundamentally changed.

So listen to our show, “How can you support your alternative spiritual communities?” and leave a comment or two down below.  As a group leader, what would be the best thing for people to do to help you?  As a group member, what are useful ways that you help out and show your support?

As always, check out EYE of the SEER every Tuesday night at 9pm over at Blog Talk Radio, and thanks again for all of your help and support throughout these years!

1 comment:

  1. As a group leader and active member of the Pagan community, I applaud your efforts to bring attention to this important issue. In fact, this summer, I had to make the hugely painful decision to close a group I founded two years ago. I put heart, soul, endless hours, and scads of my personal and business funds into this group. Every event received positive feedback, when I received feedback at all. My many requests for feedback for event topics, schedules and pricing received no response, nor did my requests for help or contributions.

    As a businesswoman, I could only conclude that there was not enough interest in this group to justify its existence, and I was forced to close it. As a spiritual leader, I am hugely saddened, but also angry. The group had nearly 100 members, yet 75% of them never attended an event. We regularly had attendees who RSVP'd, then did not attend. Many an exciting, creative event was cancelled due to lack of RSVPs, and many of them were ones that people had expressed interest in. I received not a single contribution to overhead of running the group.

    So many people would tell me things like "what a great idea", "I love this group", "this class has improved my health", or "this town needs this group"…but yet, here we are. Another group begun with the sincere intention to create positive, tolerant community of all faiths, including Pagans but not limited to them…another group that has died for lack of support.

    I don't know what the answer is, other than for people to understand that spiritual offerings have value, just like a dentist's appointment, orchestral performance or any other event. I wish we lived in a world where money didn't matter, where spiritual leaders had the leisure to continue to offer teachings and community events regardless of outcome…but we do not.

    It's not really about money, though - it's about reciprocal relationships and energy exchange. Facilitating communities is a complex relationship between many people. The leaders give and give, but are only human. Without a return of some kind, whether it be in money, volunteer time, event attendance, contributions of supplies or simply in validation or feedback…leaders will burn out. Leaders will and do quit. When that happens, we all lose.